Actor Hill Harper Launches New Skin and Body Line

Over the last two decades, we have enjoyed the critically acclaimed performances from award-winning actor and best-selling author and philanthropist Hill Harper.

He has graced both the small screen and major films, including starring in the CBS television drama CSI: NY, USA Network’s Covert Affairs, Limitless and co-starring alongside Will Smith in the movie Concussion.

The seven-time NAACP Image Award recipient has penned numerous New York Times best-sellers as well as created the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering youth through mentorship, scholarship and grant programs.

A staunch advocate of education, he graduated magna cum laude with a BA from Brown University, and cum laude with a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, where he began a long-term friendship with fellow law student Barack Obama. His honorary degrees from several universities and colleges consist of a long list of notable institutions.

What makes Harper stand out as one of Hollywood’s leading men is how he continues to utilize his celebrity for good. As a businessman, he recently launched a skincare and body line. H2L is a premium natural men’s collection, and JUA Essentials is the chemical-free women’s collection designed with natural plant extracts and oils. The line falls under Harper and The Architect & Co., a company Harper co-founded and proudly serves as the brand ambassador.

In between his various projects, he stopped in Chicago for a soft launch of his new collection and spoke with the Chicago Defender about his new line.

Q:We understand that your company has launched a new skincare and beauty line. Can you tell us about it?


A: It’s for men and women. It’s really for the body and  not much for the face, except for men there’s a shaving kit for men.


Q:What makes this particular line special and separate from other products?


A:Healthy skin all over your body with a healthy scent. Attractive scents — all these things I wanted to focus on. It was really borne out of wellness. President Obama appointed me to the president’s cancer council earlier in his term. I served on it for the last six years. In 2010, I was diagnosed with cancer myself, and I realized the connection between all the products that we lay on our skin are absorbed into our body. The liver and kidney  must clean out the toxics and the metals in our system.

The drug companies aren’t that interested in curing cancer so much as they there are interested in creating drugs that can deal with it once you have it. I’ve come to the realization much of the aluminum sulfates that we put on our body — very naturally — particularly in our community are doing a great deal of damage.

Q:Skin and beauty care products that are more organic can also be very expensive, thus pricing themselves out to folks who are within a budget. How do you make sure your products are affordable?


A:I wanted to come out with the body care line to take care of our skin and have it be reasonably priced. Once I did my research of what I wanted to buy, I realized that you must be wealthy to use certain lines.

I figured there has to be a way to create these premium-quality products for affordable prices. I connected directly to manufacturers, chemists, and redeveloped a wonderful line for men and women.

This is what we tend to do; I travel so much. For example, we’ll go into a hotel room and we will use those things without even knowing what’s in the bottle. That’s how conditioned we are without thinking. We won’t just throw something in our mouths if we don’t have a sense of what it is, it may not be healthy but at least we know if you’re eating cake, you’re eating cake, so you’re making that choice. With skin and body care you just don’t know.

Not many are all natural, but we are.

Q:In our community, we’re all different tones, shades, and therefore our body chemistry is not going to respond to mainstream products as well as others. Is this line designed for African-American skin?


A:I don’t necessarily say African American — people with melanin in their skin. That also could mean a person can be of East Indian descent or certain parts of Mexico, Italy and so forth if you have melanin in your skin there, are certain things that link us. Folks with a lot of melanin, we tend to have a vitamin D deficiency. We have vitamin D in our products.

The thing that I’m most excited about is an oil that I discovered when I was traveling in Africa. It’s called the baobab oil; it’s from the baobab tree. In Africa, they say it’s the tree of life. The oil itself contains so many valuable properties that are healthy for melanin in their skins. Trying to keep this affordable has been a challenge. I’m not introducing anything that isn’t affordable. I’m figuring out how to import it at a price that makes sense for the regular, working folks in our community.

It’s great for African-American skin, and it’s been used for centuries for folks in Africa.


Q:How are you giving back to people in the community through this new venture?

A:There’s also a job piece here. At the end of the day, I started to realize the motivational engagement that I do to help returning citizens and young juvenile “so-called” offenders is important work for me. You can motivate folks, but if they can’t find a job, it doesn’t do anybody any good. I had to look myself in the mirror and ask, “I’m going to be a job creator? Can I encourage other folks to create businesses where they can start jobs?


Q:What do you have coming up on the acting side?

A:This season I did Homeland. There’s a few more episodes left to air on Showtime until May. A phenomenally well-written show. I was happy to do this season. I have my show on HLN, How It Really Happened, that comes on every Friday night. It’s a mix of tragedy, murders, some serial murders — just different high-profile cases. We examine and use the archive footage from CNN and interviews to explore what really happened.

On the set, I jokingly say, the show really is called, “What Had Happened Was . . .” (he laughs)

I did so many years on CSI, it’s organic for me to talk about the idea to follow the evidence. What happened and what we’re being told at the time. There are cases coming up, JFK Jr. We’ve already aired Prince, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, as well JonBenet and Anna Nicole Smith have aired.

We’ll have new episodes airing through May. It’s an exciting show. The team from CNN documentary, they are the best documentary producers in the world. The show is extremely high quality.

Q:You also have the Tupac Shakur film coming out June 16, right?


A:LT Hutton produced it and Benny Boom directed the film. It happens to be on Tupac Shakur’s birthday. They decided to hold the movie until then as a dedication to him. It’s a great film, and the script is fantastic. The young brother who plays him looks and captures his essence so brilliantly. He looks like him in real life — you must do a double take. He is a wonderful actor and he brings the character to life.


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